There Ain't No Red Clay in Georgia
In some areas of Georgia, the soil is a strikingly red colored clay. This red hued dirt is caused mainly by the presence of iron oxides in the soil. They say red clay is found in soils that are in very wet environments and are well drained, so many of the other minerals leach out of the rocks, leaving mainly iron oxides.
Georgia's red clay has inspired the lyrics to many songs including Donald Lee Burns' "Ain't No Red Clay in Georgia," John Anderson's "Red Georgia Clay," and Sweet Honey in the Rock's "Georgia Red Clay."
Pecans, or pee cans, if you are from Georgia, are a Georgia tradition. Georgia produces more pee cans than any other state in the US, and it has led the states in pee can production since the 1800s. But for some reason, pecans are the state nut of Alabama, pecan pie is part of the state meal of Oklahoma, and pecans are the official "state health nut" of Texas. Unfortunately for the pee can, in Georgia it is overshadowed by cotton, peaches, and peanuts (or p'nuts in the local dialect). It is understandable that pee cans are not the state food or state crop, but shouldn't they at least be the state tree? Nope, that is the live oak, which is found all over the south, mainly in coastal areas from Texas to Virginia.
Did you know that pee cans are the only tree nut native to the United States?
Walking in High Cotton!
The area around Andersonville is prime cotton country in Georgia. We drove for a bit, then started seeing small cotton balls blowing around, then twigs with cotton still on them, then fields with piles of cotton waste, and finally big white bales of cotton sitting on the sides of red clay fields.
Georgia's best cotton producing region is in the southwest corner of the state, including Dooly, Colquitt, Worth and Mitchell counties. These four counties together produce more than one fifth of the state's total cotton crop.
Did you know:
Georgia ranks second in the U.S. in cotton planted acres and 4th in number of bales produced each year.
Cotton is the most widely grown row crop in Georgia.
Stockade Branch Creek, Andersonville Prison
The Stockade Branch was intended to be the water supply for all of the prisoners in the Andersonville Camp. Looking at this small stream today, one wonders how this could provide enough water for 300 people, let alone the 30,000 that were in the camp at its peak. The stockade walls blocked the flow of the water, creating a polluted swamp that was unfit for consumption, causing the rapid spread of disease, daily suffering, and death.
Andersonville National Cemetery
Andersonville National Cemetery was established in 1864, initially as a burial spot for those who died at the prison camp nearby. The dead from the prison were buried in long trenches sometimes with several thousand bodies buried in a single grave trench. Nearly 13,000 deceased prisoners are buried here, and in later years, another 7,000 veterans and their eligible family members were laid to rest in this peaceful cemetery.
Today the cemetery is administered by the National Park Service and remains an active burial ground.
Ghosts of Andersonville
I'm not a big believer in ghosts, but I saw my first good evidence at Andersonville. I arrived and took numerous photos around the prison camp site before my camera started doing odd things. My photos started to appear slightly washed out. Then we made our way tot he cemetery, and my photos became more and more washed out, almost completely white. I was confused about the problem, so I snapped 10 or 12 photos, all with the same washed out picture. As soon as we left the cemetery, we entered the town of Andersonville and my photos were instantly flawless. I was at Andersonville in December 2011, and in the 10 months since then, I have never had this problem with my camera again....
The civil war camp at Andersonville was built alongside a stream that would provide fresh water for the inmates. That was until the stream was blocked by the walls of the stockade, creating a stagnant, polluted swamp in the middle of the camp. As the summers progressed, the stream because a small trickle of water, nowhere near enough to provide fresh water to the thousands of prisoners. Furthermore, the Confederate guards camp was upstream so any water that did enter the camp was already fowled by cooking and waste.
In the summer of 1964 it is said that a lightning strike penetrated the earth just downhill from the North Gate, opening a fresh spring out of the side of the hill. The spring produced about 10 gallons of fresh water per minute, provide relief to the Union prisoners.
In 1907 survivors of Andersonville and other Union veterans constructed a granite building, resembling a small chapel, around the spring. This is a cool, peaceful spot, even in the heat of the summer.
The town of Andersonville
Andersonville, Georgia is a tiny town with just 250 or so permanent residents. The town's main claim to fame (or infamy) is the nearby Andersonville Prisoner of War Camp and National Cemetery.
The town began as a railroad station and expanded when Camp Sumter opened (which eventually became the prisoner of war camp). In the 1970s the town's mayor led an effort to return the look of the town to the Civil War period.
Other than a few shops and restaurants, the town does not have many amenities for visitors Nearby Americus and Oglethorpe are much larger than Andersonville and are good places to find a hotel if you are visiting the area.
The Monuments of Andesonville
Ansdersonville has a number of monuments, both at the cemetery and at the prison site. Most were dedicated by states to recognize the soldiers and units from that state, but others recognize individuals and some others were donated by private organizations like the Odd Fellows.
The first monument at the Andersonville cemetery site was placed in 1899 by the state of New Jersey. In the next 17 years, Maine (1904), Pennsylvania (1905), Iowa (1906), Connecticut (1907), Indiana (1908), Illinois (1912), New York (1914), Minnesota (1916), Georgia (1976), the Oddfellows (1984), also placed monuments in the corner of the former stockade. In 1989 a monument was placed to honor those who suffered through or died at the World War II prison camp known as Stalag XVII-B.
Monuments located at the prison site include those dedicated by Massachusetts (1901), Ohio (1901), Rhode Island (1903), Michigan (1904), Wisconsin (1907), Tennessee (1915), and an Eight-State monument representing Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia (1934). Other monuments on the grounds of the former prison include a memorial for Lizabeth Turner, former president of the Women's Relief Corps; a monument for Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross and one who dedicated effort to identify the graves of the dead at Andersonville; the Providence Spring House; a Sundial to mark the transfer of the prison from the Women's Relief Corps to the United States Army; and the Lincoln-Logan monument which is inscribed with General John Logan's Memorial Day order of 1868 and President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
I had never hear of Logan's Memorial Day order of 1868, so I had to do some research. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The text of his order is below:
I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.
By command of:
JOHN A. LOGAN,
N. P. CHIPMAN,
Andersonville's North Gate
Andersonville prison had two entrances on the west side, facing the town of Andersonville and its train station. Of the two entrances, only the north gate has been reconstructed. The only other section of the stockade reconstructed is the northeast corner.
The gate was a square of tall, 20 foot walls with two doors, one ot the outside world and one to the hell that was the prison.
A historical marker at the North Gate reads:
The trail follows in the footsteps of newly arriving prisoners. Captured Union soldiers marched from the village railroad station, past this spot, and uphill to the North Gate, the main prison entrance.
After prisoners passed through the outer door, it was barred behind them. Then the inner gate swung open on the prison yard. New arrivals, or "fresh fish" as they were often called, had no idea what awaited them there.
"Five hundred weary men moved along slowly through the double lines of guards. Two massive wooden gates, with heavy iron hinges and bolts, swung open as we stood there, and we passed through into the space beyond. We were at Andersonville."
Andersonville's "Dead Line"
The dead line marked the prisoners' limits within the walls of the Andersonville Camp compound. A simple wooden fence marked the dead line, and it was enforced by sentries in towers located about every 90 feet along the walls. If a prisoner crossed the fence, he was shot and killed, hence the name "dead line." The deadline was located 19 feet from the stockade walls, and it was intended to prevent prisoners from attempting to climb the walls or tunnel under them. Today the deadline is marked around the circumference of the prison by white posts.
When the Stockade Branch creek became stagnant and polluted, prisoners tried to reach a fresh spring that popped up between the deadline and the POW compound walls; luckily the guards allowed the prisoners to build a water channel to force the water to flow to the prisoners.
The first recorded use of the term dead line was at Andersonville in 1864.
andersonville train depot
pictured is the train depot were the union prisoners of war disembarked for their internment at camp sumter. from this point they were marched a quarter mile to the prison. today the depot houses the andersonville visitor center.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
on a hill overlooking camp sumter capt.wirz built the star fort. the fort was so named because it was in the shape of a star. in reality it is just an earthen embankment which wirz aimed cannons at the camp. in terms of prison guards, camp sumter was extremely under staffed so wirz needed additional force to deal with the possibility of a mass prison break. the star fort is located on the southwest corner of camp sumter.
- Historical Travel
pictured is a replica of camp sumter's prison wall, guard towers, and the prisoner's make shift shelters. this corner of the prison gives the visitor an impression of how primative the living conditions of the prisoners were. capt. henry wirz, the comandant of camp sumter was given very little supplies in order to construct adequate shelter for the prisoners. also deliveries of food supplies were soradic which weakened the prisoners with malnutrition. the sanitary conditions of camp sumter were deplorable which led to the deaths of thousands of prisoners. camp sumter is one of the most tragic sites in american history.
- Historical Travel
pictured is the small creek that runs through the center of camp sumter. it is almost impossible to imagine that this creek served as the only source of drinking water and sanitation for tens of thousands of people.
- Historical Travel